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January 16, 2019

Prosecutor James P. Fisher appointed to judgeship

File Photo/Don Del Rosso
James P. Fisher waits for his Dec. 7 interview with the Virginia House and Senate Courts of Justice committees.
James P. Fisher
• Age: 56

• Home: Near The Plains.

• Appointed: To 20th Circuit judgeship, vacant since Jan. 1, 2017, when Judge Burke McCahill retired from the Loudoun County Circuit Court bench.

• Work: Fauquier County commonwealth’s attorney, 2011-present.

• Experience: Chief deputy commonwealth’s attorney, Loudoun County, 2003-11; private practice, 1993-2003; assistant commonwealth’s attorney, Fairfax County, 1988-93.

• Education: Law degree, Capital (Ohio) University, 1988; bachelor’s degree, political science and communications, Shepherd (W.Va.) University, 1985; Stonewall Jackson High School, Manassas, 1981.

• Family: Wife, Nono; children, James, 24; Joseph, 20; Audrey, 15

• Hobbies: Fishing, reading, recreational shooting and sports.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Contributing Journalist
The Virginia General Assembly on Wednesday appointed Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney James P. Fisher to a circuit court judgeship.

Starting July 1, Mr. Fisher will serve as the newest 20th Judicial Circuit judge, hearing cases in Loudoun County, where he previously worked as a prosecutor.

The 40-member Virginia Senate elected him with a slate of new judges by voice vote, without dissent. The 100-member House of Delegates voted, 50-0, on the same slate.

Appointed to eight-year terms, circuit court judges in Virginia start at a salary of $171,000.

“I’m excited for the opportunity . . . to take another step in my career,” Mr. Fisher said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon.

His 30-year career includes two decades as a prosecutor and a decade in private practice, handling a variety of civil and criminal defense cases.

It started during summer break after his freshman year at Shepherd College (now University), when the 19-year-old told his late father, Prince William County Police Lt. James E. Fisher about his newfound interest in the law as a career.

The elder Fisher suggested his son spend some time watching legendary Prince William Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert prosecute cases.

The college student quickly grew enamored of what he continued to watch for several years in court. That led to law school, clerkships and eventually his first job as a rookie prosecutor in Fairfax County.

He often thought about potentially seeking a judgeship, Mr. Fisher said Wednesday. He considered it two years ago, when Judge Burke McCahill retired from the Loudoun County Circuit Court bench.

Mr. Fisher had worked from 2003 to 2011 as the chief deputy prosecutor in Loudoun. But, his friend Alex N. Levay, a Leesburg attorney, applied for the job. The General Assembly, however, withheld funding to fill the seat in 2017.

When the legislature began consideration of filling the position last fall, Mr. Levay had a change of heart.

“He would have been a great judge,” Mr. Fisher said.

Around Thanksgiving, the Fauquier prosecutor decided to pursue the appointment.

“I think every lawyer thinks about it from time to time,” Mr. Fisher said of becoming a judge. “But, even two years ago, it might not have been the right time for me . . . .

“But, I’m 56 years old. It makes sense at this point . . . . There isn’t a lot in a courtroom I haven’t seen.”

He has handled criminal cases from both sides, worked more than 60 cases involving the appointments of guardians for minors, represented insurance companies and a large real estate management firm.

Mr. Fisher estimated that he has worked in front of 100 different circuit court judges.

With powerful Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-26th/Harrisonburg) introducing him, Mr. Fisher in December appeared briefly before the House and Senate Courts of Justice committees, which deemed him qualified for the judgeship.

No other candidate appeared at that Dec. 7 joint hearing.

Legislators, local government officials, lawyers and others in Loudoun argued that candidates from that county should have gotten more notice and opportunities to appear before the committees.

But, the legislature this week moved on the appointments as planned.

Mr. Fisher, a Republican who previously chaired the Fauquier GOP committee, will join three other judges hearing cases in Loudoun County Circuit Court.

The 20th Judicial Circuit also includes Fauquier and Rappahannock counties.

Mr. Fisher has suspended his campaign for re-election as Fauquier’s commonwealth’s attorney.

The 20th Circuit judges appointed him in June 2011 to succeed Fauquier Commonwealth’s Attorney Jonathan Lynn, whom the General Assembly elected to the juvenile and domestic relations court bench. Mr. Fisher won election that November and re-election in 2015 — both times unopposed.

In August, Christopher B. Moorehead, who works as an assistant prosecutor in Culpeper, announced plans to seek the Republican nomination for commonwealth’s attorney. The Fauquier County Republican Committee in the spring will decide how to select its nominees for the November 2019 ballot.

As Fauquier’s chief prosecutor, Mr. Fisher oversees a staff of 16 and a $1.48-million annual budget.

The circuit’s judges will appoint a prosecutor to serve as Fauquier commonwealth’s attorney for the second half of this year.

Contact Lou Emerson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) of 540-270-1845.

The House of Delegates adopted an identical resolution:

Virginia Senate Resolution ... by on Scribd

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FalconDad · January 17, 2019 at 10:09 am
Possible opening for a Democrat as the Commonwealth's Attorney? Not happening in this overwhelmingly Republican county. The Democrats did have a chance by putting a Democrat up for the open Circuit Court position that Fisher just won unopposed, but they were caught dragging their feet and missed the cut-off date. The Democrats in Loudoun County woke up this morning tearing their hair out considering Fisher will also be hearing Circuit Court cases in their overwhelming Democratic county.
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